Caffeine and Pregnancy

photo by Anya

By Angie Best-Boss

Can’t give up that hankering for a cup of joe in the morning? Crave a Coke in the afternoon for a little pick-me-up? If you’re trying to become pregnant, now is a great time to kick your caffeine habit because caffeine and pregnancy do not go together.

Caffeine and Infertility

Should you skip the Starbucks or not when you’re trying to make a baby? Studies aren’t clear about whether caffeine intake reduces fertility.

One study found as little as one cup of coffee per day was enough to increase the time taken to get pregnant. But another study of nearly 3000 women found that coffee consumption was not associated with infertility. Caffeine has been shown to interfere with the ability of the egg to implant in the uterus and when combined with alcohol or cigarettes, significant drops in fertility resulted. So what’s a girl to do?

Caffeine and Miscarriage

Even though the role of caffeine in infertility is murky, the best reason to quit is that it is proven to cause problems when you finally get pregnant. Even with low doses, you might be putting baby at risk.

In fact, the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that pregnant women who consumed more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day (that’s about two cups of coffee), had twice the risk of miscarriage as the women who had no caffeine. Yikes!

And women who consumed less than 200 mg of caffeine daily? Their risk of miscarriage still increased by more than 40%!

How exactly? The March of Dimes notes that mixing caffeine and pregnancy could cause the caffeine to easily pass from the mother to her unborn child through the placenta. Because the systems for breaking down and eliminating chemicals are not fully developed in the fetus, blood levels of caffeine may remain elevated for longer periods relative to the mother. It can be tough for the fetus to metabolize and it may influence cell development and decrease the blood flow to the placenta. The vasoconstriction may restrict blood flow which can cause miscarriage.

Caffeine and Breastfeeding

Even when you bring baby home, you’ll need to consider your caffeine intake. A nursing mom needs plenty of water, milk, and juice and shouldn’t substitute those fluids with caffeinated beverages. A cup of coffee a day is probably fine according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but it crosses over into breast milk even days after mom’s intake, so why take chances? Caffeine can be a tough habit to break and going cold turkey can bring on side effects for a few days or even weeks. Don’t wait until your pregnancy test turns positive to wean yourself from caffeine and start doing everything you can now to prepare for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Wondering just how much caffeine you’re using?

Foods and Beverages
Milligrams of caffeine
(average)
Coffee (8 oz)
Brewed, drip
137 mg
Instant
76 mg
Tea (8 oz)
Brewed
48 mg
Instant
26-36 mg
Caffeinated soft drinks, such as cola (12 oz)
37 mg
Hot cocoa (12 oz)
8-12 mg
Chocolate milk (8 oz)
5-8 mg
Candy
Dark chocolate (1.45 oz bar)
30 mg
Milk chocolate (1.55 oz bar)
11 mg
Semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/4 cup)
26-28 mg
Chocolate syrup (1 tbsp)
3 mg
Coffee ice cream/frozen yogurt (1/2 cup)
2 mg
 

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2000


Dive Deeper

References

  • Kirsten Wisborg, Ulrik Kesmodel, Bodil Hammer Bech, Morten Hedegaard, and Tine Brink Henriksen Maternal consumption of coffee during pregnancy and stillbirth and infant death in first year of life: prospective study BMJ, Feb 2003; 326: 420.
  • Jensen, T.K., Henriksen, T.B., Hjollund, N.H., Scheike, T., Kolstad, H., Giwercman, A., Ernst, E., Bonde, J.P., Skakkebaek, N.E. and Olsen, J. 1998. Caffeine intake and fecundability: a follow-up study among 430 Danish couples planning their first pregnancy. Reproductive Toxicology. 12(3):289-95.
  • 34 Florack, E.I., Zielhuis, G.A and Rolland, R. 1994. Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and caffeine intake and fecundability. Preventative Medicine. 23(2):175-80.
  • 35 Wilcox, A., Weinberg, C. and Baird, D. 1998. Caffeinated beverages and decreased fertility. Lancet. 2(8626-8627):1453-6.

 
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